Started as a side project, this influencer marketing startup has signed up Amazon, Paypal, and Taco Bell

Bengaluru-based influencer marketing startup Pulpkey helps brands such as Amazon, Zara, PayPal, Taco Bell, and HotStar identify the perfect creators for their product/service, and create targeted advertising strategies.

The last few years have seen the rise – and rise – of influencer marketing. The concept, which reinvents the idea of celebrity endorsement, taps online influencers for modern, content-driven marketing campaigns.

Companies across the world have woken up to the power of influencer marketing, and Bengaluru-based Pulpkey aims to give these companies “a human voice through collaboration with internet influencers” to “leverage their creativity and social intelligence”.

Launched by Amit Mondal in 2017, the influencer marketing startup helps brands identify the perfect creators for their product/service and provide authentic and cost-effective services for modern advertising strategies.

Amit Mondal, the Founder of Pulpkey

“We use technology, creativity, data mining, human input, content creator’s collaboration habits, and quality check-in to match a brand with the right set of content creators and influencers. The advertisements become powerful as they are personal and respectful of the context,” Amit tells YourStory.

The combination of managed service and AI-based software enables advertisers to work with any size and type of content creators at scale across top social media platforms. It claims to have a network of 15,000+ influencers on Instagram, YouTube, and other platforms across diverse categories such as fashion, beauty, photography, food, lifestyle, comedy, family, music, films, technology, games etc.

Pulpkey has served over 100 brand partners, executing more than 500+ campaigns. These brands include Amazon, Kingfisher, Zara, Oppo, Godrej, HotStar, Times of India, Taco Bell, PayPal, Rebel Foods, Kent, Western Union, Faaso’s, CureFit, Pocket Aces, Happn, YY Inc, TransferGo, Storytel, and Beardo.

From a side project to a startup

Amit has always been into cinema, photography, music, and in technology.

I pursued photography very actively in college. I got funded to do exhibitions and was invited to work for magazines, but there were a very limited amount of opportunities in India for a well-paid career in photography. I worked with multiple early-stage tech startups, which created an interest in business and technology. It was a gradual calling that combined both: what I wanted to do earlier and what I wanted to do at that moment,” Amit says.

He finished his IT engineering course from Neotia Institute Of Technology, Management, and Science, Kolkata, in 2013, and joined Framebench (later acquired by Freshworks). He was also a part of the core teams in travel, real estate, and fintech startups, including Wealthy, getSquareFeet, and

Interestingly, Pulpkey started as a side project while Amit was doing his nine-to-five job.

During Christmas 2016, Amit and his friend, Souvik Maity, made an announcement landing page and posted the link to a couple of startup groups on Facebook.

“We went for a walk and came back, and noticed there were around 15 registrations. We were not from advertising and marketing backgrounds, and took a different approach. We talked to all of them, one by one,” Amit recalls.

Simultaneously, the duo reached out to hundreds of content creators and asked them to share their experiences of working with brands. They started doing small projects to know more about the market.

“We loved cold emails. We received one from a chief digital marketing officer at one of the biggest alcohol brands. We proposed something entirely different, and they agreed to give it a shot and gave us a pilot,” Amit says.

That one-month contract lasted 10 months and Amit then quit his full-time job to incorporate Pulpkey officially with an investment of Rs 2 lakh. Most customers after that were acquired by referrals from existing customers.

Souvik is currently the CTO of Pulpkey, which has a 10-member team.

How does the solution work?

Pulpkey works with two models: full service and self-service.

Under the full-service model, the startup works with brands or their agencies to develop full-service, scalable influencer marketing campaigns from scratch.

Brands, or their agencies, can create a campaign brief from Pulpkey’s website, setting goals, target groups, brand persona, and KPIs. The Pulpkey team then works closely with the brand to understand their needs, develop a strategy, and identify the ideal set of content creators and influencers for the respective campaigns.

Team at Pulpkey

“Our team takes care of everything: planning and strategy, creative direction, influencer management, overseeing content creation and live analytics/reporting,” Amit says.

In the self-service model, the Pulpkey Couch, an influencer and content search engine self-service software, helps anyone to find and identify ideal Indian influencers for a campaign.

Amit says one can find influencers with 20+ filters, including keywords, locations, and categories, from a curated list of 10,000+ Indian profiles. The Pulpkey AI analyses the demographic, gender, age, location, growth, and similar influencers, and helps run self-service campaigns at scale.

The influencer marketing market

According to a report by Statista, the global influencer marketing market was valued at $137 million in in 2018. It is expected to further grow to $162 million in 2020 and surpass $370 million in 2027

Amit says, “Large companies have nearly doubled the number of creators they activate per campaign in the past two years,” adding that nearly 90 percent of all influencer campaigns include Instagram as part of the marketing mix.

In India, Pulpkey competes with Winkl, Starngage, and Influencer. Speaking about what sets his startup apart, Amit says that it does not exclusively manage any talents, which ensures that its recommendation of influencers is only based on the objective of the respective campaigns.

The startup uses in-house technology at every step of the campaign so that every decision is supported by real data.

“Our in-house technology solutions, powered by AI and machine learning, provide in-depth analysis for your audience. Technology ensures minimum human support, so our campaign turnaround time is reduced. We have worked in more than 15+ markets so our brand partners and influencers are diverse,” Amit says.

Pulpkey claims to be profitable. Going forward, the team wants to grow its brand partner base and technology offerings across India and in international markets.

(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)